By Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

Key points

  • New Year’s resolutions are often abandoned by early January, especially if they’re unrealistic or too general.

  • To make a resolution stick, you really need to have a specific plan of action.

  • When it comes to your financial resolve, try these seven financial tips to help set yourself up for success all year long.

We’re still in the early part of 2017 and do you know what that means? For a lot of us, it means our New Year’s resolutions are already a thing of the past. It isn’t that we’re not committed to positive change. It’s just that often we’re not clear about how to achieve it. Especially if resolutions are general — sure, we all want to lose weight or save more money, but it can be hard to follow through.

So what’s the answer? First, when it comes to your finances, get specific about what you really want to accomplish. For instance, how much do you want to save each month? What bills do you want to pay off first? The second essential part of success is making a plan and then sticking with it. The following financial tips are designed to help make it easy — almost automatic — to stay on track. Basically, these are simple things you can set in motion now that can keep you going in the right direction all year long.

1. Set up automatic deductions from checking to savings

If you’re contributing to a 401(k), you know how easy it is to adjust to an automatic deduction from your paycheck. So why not do the same for your other savings goals? Whether you’re saving for a house, a child’s college, or building a vacation fund, automatic deductions from checking to savings will add up without you having to think too much about it.

2. Amp up your retirement savings

It’s great to stash away money in your retirement account every month, but are you saving enough? If you’re over 25 and saving less than 10 percent of your salary, you should consider increasing the percentage. Expecting a bonus? Send the bulk of it to savings.

3. Create a calendar

Don’t risk incurring a penalty by missing a due date. Put all important financial dates on your calendar such as estimated taxes, property taxes, and RMDs. Set up reminders a few days in advance of the due date.

4. Put bills on auto pay

Avoid late fees by putting your recurring bills — mortgage payments, utilities, insurance premiums, phone and Internet — on automatic. Just be sure to check in periodically to make sure the proper amounts are being deducted.

5. Build a cash cushion

Resolutions can quickly get off track when you’re faced with a financial emergency. As a buffer, you ideally want to have enough cash handy to cover three to six months’ essential expenses. Sound impossible? Look back at number 1. Figure out how much you can afford to put toward your emergency fund each month and have that amount automatically deposited in a savings account especially earmarked for that purpose. When you reach your goal, you can put these savings toward something else.

6. Invest like a pro — without the hassle

If you don’t have the time or expertise to monitor and rebalance your investments, consider using an automatic investment advisory service. Let the pros help build and manage your portfolio in keeping with your personal goals — minus the hassle.

7. Make financial date-night a regular event

A little moral support can go a long way. Set up a regular time to discuss your financial goals and realities with your spouse, partner or a trusted friend to share tips and help each other stay on track. And be sure to celebrate your successes!

Making positive financial change isn’t a once a year event, it’s a constant commitment. To me, the best way to succeed is to make staying on top of your finances a healthy habit rather than a yearly challenge. I believe that if you put these seven things in motion now, handling your finances will become second nature. Then you won’t need to make annual resolutions — you’ll be on the path to lifelong success.


About LRPC’s Monday Morning Minute

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC (LRPC) Monday Morning Minute is crafted to provide decision-makers with important information about the economy, investments and corporate retirement plans in a format that allows a reader to consume the information in less than 60 seconds. As an independent, objective investment adviser, LRPC has access to many sources of research and shares the best and most relevant information with its readers each week.

About Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC

Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based independent, objective Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) providing investment advisory, fiduciary compliance, employee education, provider management and plan design services to retirement plan sponsors. The firm currently has contracts in place to provide consulting services on more than $400 million in plan assets. For more information, please contact Robert C. Lawton at (414) 828-4015 or or visit the firm’s website at Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser.

Important Disclosures

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance, tax, legal or investment advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax adviser for guidance on your specific situation. In no way does Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC assure that, by using the information provided, plan sponsor will be in compliance with ERISA regulations. Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. The statements in this publication are the opinions and beliefs of the commentator expressed when the commentary was made and are not intended to represent that person’s opinions and beliefs at any other time. The commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC and should not be construed as recommendations or investment advice. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC offers no tax, legal or accounting advice and any advice contained herein is not specific to any individual, entity or retirement plan, but rather general in nature and, therefore, should not be relied upon for specific investment situations. Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC is a Wisconsin Registered Investment Adviser and accepts clients outside of Wisconsin based upon applicable state registration regulations and the “de minimus” exception.

Additional Important Disclosures

Automatic investing and rebalancing strategies do not ensure a profit and do not protect against losses in declining markets. The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner or investment manager.